10 Tips for Creating Educational Programs for International Audiences

By Dawn Reiss, August 30, 2016

Finding the right mix of speakers and educational programs can be challenging for a global event. In the past three years, Cellie Morales, an education and learning services manager at SmithBucklin (a Chicago-based association management and services company), has hosted 10 conferences or events per year—on average, three among those outside the United States. “It’s easy to silo educational programming from the experience,” Morales says. “Instead, [planners should] look at it from a holistic point of view.” Here are her tips for creating educational programs for an international audience.

Do decide the programming divide.

First, consider your audience and whether programming sessions need to be broken out into geographic regions. Morales starts by researching online and working with subject matter experts in a particular group’s industry or field to see if there is a unified viewpoint or not.

“What makes international audiences more challenging is you are dealing with a greater variety of people, and though the business challenges they face may be similar, the way they overcome those may be different,” Morales says. That’s because countries vary in their cultural preferences, laws and regulations. For example, an educational session on how to market a product or service might look completely different in terms of tactics and techniques for an emerging market versus a more established one.

Do find relatable topics.

Think about where members are coming from, suggests Morales. For example, during a vacation rental natural disaster conference, Morales had concurrent tracks for different regions of the world—Europe, Asia-Pacific, East and West Coasts of the United States—because how a region handles a natural disaster will be different based on its geography and legal system.

Don’t focus only on bilingual presenters.

Instead, hone in first on finding dynamic speakers who can give advice on relevant topics, Morales says.

Do be strategic with translation, however.

It takes a lot of time and money to translate a speaker. Morales says some industries, such as technology, scientific or medical fields, typically use English as their primary language and require almost everyone in that industry to speak it. In other industries, and particularly those in emerging markets, translation may be necessary to bring new attendees to an event. For example, Morales helped plan a conference in the print industry that translated most of the content into Spanish because the Latin American sector of the industry only spoke Spanish and worked primarily with Spanish-speaking individuals. The cost was worth it, however: “As they make up a large sector of that industry, we wanted them at the conference,” Morales says.

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